Saturday, December 22, 2007

UNICEF and so-called ''Awakening' councils

Mr. Hakim's views are becoming more pronounced among Shiite leaders, who worry that the Awakening movement has been infiltrated by insurgents, and could stir up Shiite militias.

The above is from Damien Cave's "Shiite Leader Urges Curbs On Sunni Allies of the U.S." in this morning's New York Times. It runs on A13, the only report filed from Iraq. You have to go further in the report to find any mention of UNICEF's report (paragraph 14 of an 18 paragraph story):

Those gains were put into context on Friday by a report from Unicef. The report, titled "little Respite for Iraq's Children in 2007," declared that around two million Iraqi children suffered this year from a variety of humanitarian ills, including poor nutrition, disease and interrupted education.
Roughly 60 percent of children nationwide lacked reliable access to safe drinking water, the report said. Hundreds of children were killed or injured by the country's sectarian violence while an average of 25,000 children per month were displaced.
In a press release [. . .]

That report was released rather late on Friday for any correspondent in Iraq attempting to file for a Saturday morning paper. It's also true that the there were many important points in the report.

In yesterday's snapshot, we noted the opening two sentences of the press release ("An estimated two million children in Iraq continue to face threats including poor nutrition, disease and interrupted education. Iraqi children were frequently caught in the crossfire of conflict throughout 2007. Insecurity and displacement continues to cause hardship for many in the most insecure parts of the country and further eroded access to quality essential services country-wide.") and then noted there were many points but we were going to emphasize two. The first ("Hundreds of children lost their lives or were injured by violence and many more had their main family wage-earner kidnapped or killed.") was grabbed because the rations are being cut by the central (puppet) government starting next month and, in a country with already huge children malnutrition levels, that is appalling (and we paired it with a move by women in the Iraqi parliament and women activists to increase subsidies for divorced women and widows). The cuts (which aren't coming out of the Interior Ministry's budget or for that matter the HUGE monies being given to the police force) will have a huge effect on the country. People are already suffering from malnutrition and, when it gets worse in 2008, you can wonder why this move (which is nothing but a White House policy designed to attack assistance to the needy) wasn't called out when it was announced in 2007.

The second point we emphasized from the report was this: "Approximately 1,350 children were detained by military and police authorities, many for alleged security violations." Imprisoned. The word is not 'detained.' You're detained if you're walking down a street and a police officer stops you for questioning. These children were imprisoned. Iraq's prisons are overlowing and the figure of 1,350 should be appalling even before you consider the realities for any Iraqi in those prisons. (US run or Iraq run, those prisons are a disgrace.)

There are many important factors in the report (and the report should have been released sooner on Friday or held until Wednesday for release -- many people will not be paying close attention to news on Monday or Tuesday) but those are the two we went with and why.

I have no idea why neither of those points stood out to Cave but will assume the fact that the press release and report were released so late has something to do with it. Whether it's OXFAM, the UN or what have you, the paper has been repeatedly ignoring reports (not just on Iraq) in the last year so at least the report was mentioned in Cave's article. And, again, the report was released so late it's also surprising Cave was able to include it.

On the first part of the Cave's article (the first paragraph excerpted at the top of this entry), Leila Fadel has a more in-depth look at the topic with "Shiite leaders oppose expansion of U.S.-backed citizens groups" (McClatchy Newspapers):

The leader of Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim political party warned Friday that the security organizations that American officials credit with helping to cut violence in Iraq must be brought under control.
Abdulaziz al Hakim, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, became the latest Iraqi leader to raise concerns that the U.S.-financed groups, which are predominantly Sunni Muslim and known as awakening councils or "concerned local citizens," could become a potent army capable of challenging the U.S.-backed Shiite-dominated central government.
"We emphasize that it's important that these awakening councils become an aid and an arm to the Iraqi government in its pursuit of criminals and terrorists and not become a substitute for it," Hakim said in a speech that marked the Eid al Adha festival of sacrifice commemorating the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
The groups have become a controversial aspect of the U.S. military's counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. More than 75,000 people, 80 percent of them Sunni, have signed up for the groups under a U.S.-sponsored program that pays Iraqis $300 each to patrol their neighborhoods.
The groups began in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni area, where they're credited with curbing al Qaida in Iraq, but it was the U.S. push to form similar groups in mixed Sunni-Shiite areas of Baghdad and Diyala province, as well as in mostly Shiite southern Iraq, that has sparked the anger of Shiite officials.

I'm pulling this from yesterday's snapshot:

"In the face of a scandalous health care system, failing schools, and a fraudulent endless war, we are as docile as tattered scarecrows in a field of rotten tomatoes. As for that war, you may have heard that a quarter of the heavily-armed 'shooters' working in the streets of Baghdad for the Administration's mercenary Blackwater foreign legion are alleged to be chemically influenced by steroids or other mind-altering substances," declares Bill Moyers on tonight's Bill Moyers Journal. That's from tonight's essay and you can catch it right now at YouTube. PBS is fundraising in some markets so if you're thinking of watching PBS programming this week, check your local listings to make sure that the program airs at its usual time. On WBAI Sunday, 11 a.m. to noon, The Next Hour will feature Paul Krassner and Sean Kelly joining Janet Coleman and David Dozier for a discussion about the season. Monday's Cat Radio Cafe (also on WBAI, from two p.m. to three p.m.) will continue the seasonal motif with Coleman and Dozer. And Wednesday (the 26th), CCCP returns to WBAI for their monthly broadcast. The Christmas Coup Comedy Players is original comedy programming created for public radio. It will air from two p.m. to three p.m. and feature Coleman, Dozer, John McDonagh, Marc Kehoe, Scooter, Moogy Klingman and (Wally's favorite) Will Durst. Remember WBAI broadcasts from NYC and for those not in the broadcast area, WBAI streams online. For those who may miss Bill Moyers Journal, remember it streams online and it provides transcripts as well. It is fully accessible for all news consumers. PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio also regularly airs tonight (again, check your local listings) and the half-hour program will be addressing the issue of being homeless as they probe a new program which provides apartments to homeless persons." This show is already posted online for streaming. NOW with David Branccacio has also selected their "Top 10 NOW reports of 2007" (currently on the front page of the website).
And lastly,
Rory O'Connor examines what's being left out in the promotion of the selection for Time magazine's latest "Person of the Year" in "Time to Cover up?" (

In terms of TV programs mentioned, if you missed them, they do stream online (and Moyers provides full transcripts so for those who have streaming problems with their computers or those who do not beneift from audio, you can read the transcripts). At least one member missed Moyers last week due to their local PBS station being in fundraising mode (which seems rather surprising considering the season, but some are in fundraising mode). In some cases, when regular programming is not on its usual time slot, it's bumped to another time and not just left unaired so you can check your local station's website to see if it's airing on another day or time.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
Trina's Trina's Kitchen;
and Ruth's Ruth's Report

Community sites that usually post on Monday intend to post this Monday. (Here, we'll be posting every day as usual.)

This is the introduction to Margaret Kimberley's "The Test" (Black Agenda Report):

Every December evokes memories of the past twelve months. Some events are memorable for good reasons while others inspire chagrin, anger, and desperate hope that the coming year will be better. In 2007, it wasn't clear which development was worst of all. Was it the death rattle of true journalism, the openly traitorous acts of Uncle Toms, the false promise of black faces in high places, the complicity with Bush criminality among the Democratic Quislings in Congress, or the openly fascist Republican agenda?
We do know that there will be one reason to hope in 2008. A year from now George W. Bush will be one month away from the dustbin of history, but not before inflicting horrendous damage on the nation and the world. His theft of the presidency in 2000 forever poisoned an already corrupt system. We are now left with a mere semblance of democracy, the dumbing down of every facet of society and a government that governs only on behalf of a few. These catastrophes cause the scoundrels and idiots who are prominent in our lives to loom ever larger. The imprints they leave on our collective consciousness can cause us to succumb to their madness.

Her column goes on to review the year via multiple choice and true-or-false questions (with answers provided at the end).

The e-mail address for this site is